Monday, August 29, 2011


GENIUS AT WORK: It's never easy when the Kaua`i County Council seeks information from the administration, especially when they want data that the administration either doesn't have or is unwilling to part with.

That is, of course, if the council really wants the info to begin with or is willing to settle for much less.

We've described the administration tactics like "the fog"- the soft-spoken lulling to sleep of councilmembers, as perfected by perennial appointee Ian Costa.

Then there's "the runaround," where the department head on the hot seat conveniently lacks the knowledge sought by the council and suggests that a subordinate has it but he's out of town today. After a two week deferral the subordinate shows up and suggests another subordinate has the answers but he's "got meetings today." When the second one shows up two weeks later, well he's "new here" and doesn't know how the whole mess got started but it was his predecessor’s fault and he promises that things will be better in the future now that he's on the job.

This usually goes on ad nausium until the council simply forgets about the matter or simply gives up.

But how did the county perfect this system of obfuscation and disinformation?

The credit must go to a man whose time in his office spans three administrations and whose expertise was on display at last Wednesday's council committee confab.

Managing Director (formerly called the Administrative Assistant) Gary Heu started in the job back during the Maryanne Kusaka administration and despite some missteps that would cause lesser heads to roll has managed to continue in the job through Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s term and now into that of Mayor Bernard Carvalho due to precisely the skills he exhibited Wednesday. The council wanted Heu to explain why, despite having three people on the job- and a fourth one coming- they have only addressed three out of the 40 energy-saving strategy recommendations from the cost control commission, as a recent county audit showed.

Speaking softly and with his characteristic long, ponderous pauses before responding to questions, Heu parried the council's criticisms with a mish-mosh of sensible non-sequitors before actually trying to turn the tables by suggesting that taking all this time to answer all these questions from the auditor and now the council- and complying with them after the recommendations- was what was stopping the administration from action.

Heu is the master of the "I'm not here" style of testimony, having the ability to come up with 700 ways of saying the same thing. But when you actually write it down and read back his words they're completely meaningless. He does this by seeming to accept some blame but actually shifting it, followed by a "we're fixing it as of last Tuesday" explanation.

So it didn't seem to matter when Council Chair Jay Furfaro started waving around a consultant-prepared energy plan that dated back to 1994 from the administration of then Mayor, now Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura which, even though is almost two decades old, contained many of the same recommendation from the cost control commission and county auditor.

One particularly absurd discussion occurred when Energy Coordinator Glen Sato sat by Heu's side for a "PowerPoint presentation"- to the usual ooo's and ahhh's of the council- which included a slide of what he called a "dashboard" that showed the precise energy usage and amount being generated by the new photovoltaic system on the roof of the Pi`ikoi Building. That was impressive until councilmembers asked whether the people who worked there had access to the part that showed how much they were actually using so they could practice conservation- the core of all energy strategies... which of course they didn't.

But "fear not" said Heu. The brand new "sustainability manager" position created by the council in this year’s budget, will be hired "next week" and then we'll really be able to start in on energy savings.

By then the council chambers resembled San Francisco at 4 in the afternoon after the fog rolls in. So seemingly satisfied with the non-progress on a matter that had caused so much consternation only an hour before, Heu disappeared into the mist to reappear again the next time the administration's buffoon-of-the-month fails at the runaround and "the fixer" is called to perform his the unique magic that has kept him on the job lo these many years.

No comments: